We measure ourselves by many standards. Our strength and our intelligence, our wealth and even our good luck, are things which warm our heart and make us feel ourselves a match for life. But deeper than all such things and able to suffice unto itself without them, is the sense of the amount of effort we can put forth…S/He who can make none is but a shadow; s/he who can make much is a hero. – William James
Of all the dates and deadlines I’ve thrown at you in the past 30 years, this may well be the most important: September 20, 2020.
That’s the date by which all nominations must be submitted for all career recognition awards to be presented at the most consequential CNS Annual Meeting since the first gathering in Ann Arbor in 1972: the CNS 50th/ Golden Anniversary Meeting to be held in Boston next fall.
September 20 also marks the end of the 30-day period during which Active CNS Members will choose four new officers. This year’s election marks only the ninth time in its history that a majority of seats on the CNS Executive Committee – four out of seven – are up for election. The last time this happened was in 2003, when Ann Tilton was elected Secretary-Treasurer and Jim Bale was chosen President-Elect. Both of them, as it turns out, later received the Society’s most prestigious honor, the Hower Award; Dr. Tilton in 2012 at the annual meeting in Huntington Beach, and Dr. Bale last year in Charlotte.
Their selection as Hower Awardees is not unrelated to their election as officers. In both instances for both eminences, what we are talking about, really, is the Jamesian sense of “effort put forth.” Let me be clear about this: every child neurologist I have known in my 30+ years with the CNS is, in my mind, something of a Jamesian “hero”. And while relatively few have been nominated to run for office and only half been elected, no child neurologist caring daily for patients or probing the diseases and disorders besetting the brain could ever be accused of making no effort or be dismissed as a mere shadow.
Still, some do stand out for expending extra effort, as this year’s happy coincidence of matching deadlines for electing new officers and nominating award recipients reminds us. It is one of the quiet glories of the Child Neurology Society that it has always openly and democratically left it to the members to decide who would be nominated to serve as its officers or be honored with one of its awards. Doing so has required some effort on the part of its members; minimal effort in the case of voting – it takes less than a minute, really – a little more when submitting nominations honoring career- and lifelong contributions.
At bottom, what is really being asked of each member in terms of effort is relatively simple, if not necessarily easy: it is an exercise in self-reflection and self-knowledge. In voting for officers or nominating someone for an award, each member is essentially asking themselves why they went into child neurology, why they remain so passionately committed to it, what tangible and intangible personal rewards they have reaped, what hopes they might have sown. That latter question is particularly crucial this year as those elected will determine how – and how well – the CNS pivots from its first 50 years to its next 50 years. By submitting a nomination or casting your vote in the election you are putting forth the effort to honor and support those colleagues and mentors whose efforts reflect and project, embody and extend your own at this pivotal point in time where past, present and future so critically, and creatively, hang in the balance.
What is required, at bottom, is “putting forth the effort” to seriously ask yourself two questions: 1) Who in the past put forth the effort needed to make child neurology a calling that I felt drawn to? 2) Who among these candidates will put forth the effort needed to help me continue on that path with the kind and level of passion, commitment and sense of fulfillment that will compel the next generation – a truly diverse generation – to put forth the effort needed to follow after me and chart new hope-filled paths in an emerging new age of daunting challenges, dazzling opportunities and dizzying uncertainties?
The online election portal opens August 21. The nomination portal is open now. Both close September 20. The choice is yours. The chance is yours to put forth the effort to honor the past and shape the future.